Assembly Written Question 12926/17-22
Question: To ask the Minister for the Economy for her assessment of the effectiveness of student hardship funds at supporting students facing financial hardship.
Answer: My Department provides Support Funds to the Universities which are used to provide financial help to students whose access to higher education might be inhibited by financial considerations, or who, for whatever reason, including physical or other disabilities, face financial difficulties in meeting their living costs. The funds are targeted at students in particular need and priority should be given to the following groups of students: Mature students; to lone parents and those students who are not eligible for Childcare Grant; to disabled students who are not in receipt of Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA); to care leavers; to students who are homeless or who are living in Foyers (these provide accommodation, guidance and support for homeless young people); and final year students who are experiencing financial difficulty. The funds are available to eligible undergraduate and postgraduate HE students, who are enrolled at their University and able to demonstrate genuine financial hardship. Support is provided in the form of a non-repayable grant. The Universities take decisions on the award of individual payments and make no judgements on the circumstances which may lead a student to financial hardship – they simply ask that a student provides evidence in support of their claim. Given that the objective of the scheme is to support students facing genuine financial hardship, I consider the provision of a non-repayable grant payment an effective response. I am continuing to explore with the Universities what further options are available to provide support to students at this time.